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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Dening in A New Life of Hideyoshi



After the fall of Chinju, all the Japanese troops, with the exception of Konishi's corps, were withdrawn from Korea, and the Japanese confined their operations to holding a cordon of twelve fortified camps along the southern coast of the peninsula. These camps were nothing more than bluffs overlooking the sea on the south, and protected on the land side by moats and earthworks. The action at Chinju had created some suspicion as to the integrity of Japan's designs, but mainly through the persistence and tact of the Chinese envoy, Chen Weiching, terms were agreed upon, and on October 21, 1596, a Chinese mission reached Japan and proceeded to Osaka. The island had just then been visited by a series of uniquely disastrous earthquakes, which had either overthrown or rendered uninhabitable all the great edifices in and around Kyoto. One corner of Osaka Castle alone remained intact, and there the mission was received. Hideyoshi refused to give audience to the Korean members of the mission, and welcomed the Chinese members only, from whom he expected to receive a document placing him on a royal pinnacle at least as high as that occupied by the Emperor of China. The document actually transmitted to him was of a very different significance as the following extract shows:

The Emperor, who respects and obeys heaven and is favoured by Providence, commands that he be honoured and loved wherever the heavens overhang

and the earth upbears. The Imperial command is universal; even as far as the bounds of ocean where the sun rises, there are none who do not obey it. In ancient times our Imperial ancestors bestowed their favours on many lands: the Tortoise Knots and the Dragon Writing were sent to the limits of far Japan; the pure alabaster and the great-seal character were granted to the monarchs of the submissive country. Thereafter came billowy times when communications were interrupted, but an auspicious opportunity has now arrived when it has pleased us again to address you. You, Toyotomi Taira Hideyoshi, having established an Island kingdom and knowing the reverence due to the Central Land, sent to the west an envoy, and with gladness and affection offered your allegiance. On the north you knocked at the barrier of ten thousand li, and earnestly requested to be admitted within our dominions. Your mind is already confirmed in reverent submissiveness. How can we grudge our favour to so great meekness? We do, therefore, specially invest you with the dignity of "King of Japan," and to that intent issue this our commission. Treasure it carefully. As a mark of our special favour towards you, we send you over the sea a robe and crown contained in a costly case, so that you may follow our ancient custom as respects dress. Faithfully defend the frontier of our empire; let it be your study to act worthily of your position as our minister; practice moderation and self-restraint; cherish gratitude for the Imperial favour so bountifully bestowed upon you; change not your fidelity; be humbly guided by our admonitions; continue always to follow our instructions.*

*Quoted by W. Dening in A New Life of Hideyoshi.

Hideyoshi had already donned the robe and crown mentioned in the above despatch, his belief being that they represented his investiture as sovereign of Ming. On learning the truth, he tore off the insignia and flung them on the ground in a fit of ungovernable wrath at the arrogance of the Chinese Emperor's tone. It had never been distinctly explained how this extraordinary misunderstanding arose, but the most credible solution of the problem is that Naito, baron of Tamba, who had proceeded to Peking for the purpose of negotiating peace, was so overawed by the majesty and magnificence of the Chinese Court that, instead of demanding Hideyoshi's investiture as monarch of China, he stated that nothing was needed except China's formal acknowledgement of the kwampaku's real rank. Hideyoshi, in his natural anger, ordered the Chinese ambassadors to be dismissed without any written answer and without any of the gifts usual on such occasions according to the diplomatic custom of the Orient.

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